I Am -Lesson Two
It is gospel preaching that proclaims Christ. Included in that are the ways Jesus identified Himself. On eight occasions He uttered, "I am. To understand who He really is will greatly enhance our comprehension of Him and our duty to Him. Having considered in a previous lesson four times when Jesus the phrase, let us now turn our attention to four additional usages of this identifying phrase.
In John 10 we discussed how Jesus said He was the door to the sheepfold. Also in this extended teaching regarding the sheep, the door, and sheepfold Jesus said, I am the good shepherd.(John 10:11-16).
Does not this passage imply there are different kinds of shepherds because He is the good one? He was not a hireling. His motive for what He did was not for Himself, but for others. He defines a good shepherd as one whose first concern is the welfare of his sheep. He is one who, if necessary, will lie down his own life for his sheep, and does so willingly. This is precisely the kind of shepherd the Lord proved to be. For the spiritual welfare of mankind He gave His life on the cross.
Additionally, as the good shepherd, He leads His sheep to nourishment, provides protection and guidance, and when they stray He seeks them to recover them.
The good shepherd knows his sheep and is known by them. Such is the case with Jesus. There is an intimate and personal relationship between them called fellowship that reflects affection, care and primary concern one for the other. In summary, Christ emphasizes He is the exclusive shepherd, supremely good, sacrificed for His sheep, who knows His sheep and is known by His sheep. Being such a shepherd He was fulfilling the will of the Father to bring mankind into the Lord's one fold under the rule of the One Shepherd. As surely as there is one shepherd, there is one fold. When Jesus speaks of having other sheep, which are not of this fold, He is speaking of the inclusion of Gentiles and offering salvation not only to Jews but also Gentiles that all might be saved, and all saved the same way by the same Shepherd.
Resurrection And Life
In John 11, when Jesus was teaching beyond Jordan, word came to Him of the sickness of His friend, Lazarus. He deliberately delayed coming to Bethany until after Lazarus was dead. This was not due to unconcern or lack of compassion but because there was a greater work and teaching that He would produce from this event. It was to bring glory to God.
Upon His arrival, Lazarus' sisters said, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died. They obviously believed in the power of Christ to have been sufficient to heal Lazarus if He had been present. But Jesus responded, Thy brother shall rise again.
Martha thought He spoke of the eventual resurrection when all shall be raised the last day (verse 24) .It was then that Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? (John 11:25,26)
The words of Jesus carried all the necessary force of both the resurrection and life. He has power even over death. Such power belongs only to Deity. Although physical death is inevitable, eternal life is available. Death is the enemy of man both physically and spiritually. But man can enjoy victory over both by and through Christ (First Corinthians 15:54-57). This victory, this resurrection, this life is conditioned upon a person's faith in Christ, his obedient faith. There is no other who has such power to make such an offer to mankind. We either make our peace with God through Him or we forfeit these blessings and subject ourselves to the punitive consequences of having rejected the Son of God. Jesus is the resurrection and life.
Way, Truth, Life
One of the more familiar statements of Jesus where He used the phrase, I am, is found in John 14:6 when He said, I amthe way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me. Over and over again we hear Jesus assert His exclusiveness as the way to God.
This statement followed words of consolation and encouragement that Jesus had given His apostles. He noted how He would suffer and be killed, but eventually be taken into heaven. The companionship between Jesus and His disciples had grown tremendously over the months and years and the thought of its cessation was depressing on the apostles. He told them, 14:1, "Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God,believe also in me. Then He spoke of mansions In the Father's house and they were for them. His departure from them would be temporary. He said they knew the way to come to Him.
It was then that Thomas asked, How can we know the way? Jesus responded with the statement of John 14:6. He was the way. The access to the Father was through Him. In fact, He is the only way.
He called Himself the truth. In His person and His work we find all the truth that is necessary to reach the mansions of the Father. This claim of being the truth is significant in our own time, especially when there are those who teach that there is no truth, no absolute standard of truth, no way we can be sure of the truth, that we can never find the truth but can only search for it. What is amazing is how absolutely sure some people are that nobody can be absolutely such of anything. They are confident that it is true that there is no way to know truth. Dear reader, any position that is so self-contradictory is not deserving of followship from any intelligent person. Jesus contradicts that agnosticism by declaring, I am the truth.It is truth that sets man free (John 8:32). Until people come to Christ they cannot be delivered from the bondage of sin and will never enjoy the liberty that is in Christ.
Again Christ affirmed He is the life. Life is one of the prime themes of the gospel and so often found in the discourses of Jesus. He said He was the bread of life, the resurrection and the life, the water of life, and here life itself. Jesus is the very depository of life. Without Him there is no eternal life. All who would truly live the abundant life, both here and eternally, must come to the Father, the giver of life, and he can only come through Jesus Christ, God's Son.
In John 15:1-10, as Jesus was possibly observing some of the many vineyards found in Palestine, He said, Iam the true vine, and my Father isthe husbandman. Again, we see a contrast in His words like that which He used when He identified Himself as the good shepherd and the true bread. According to Psalm 80, the vine was a symbol of the nation of Israel. Israel was God's vine. Those connected thereto belonged to God. With the coming of the faith of Christ the nation of Israel no longer possessed this distinction by virtue of being Israel In the flesh. Being an Israelite no longer meant they were necessarily God's vine. This ancestral circumstance did not assure them of God's favor. Rather, spiritual Israel, the church was the blessed of God.
Christ is the true vine. One must have proper relationship with Him like that of branches In order to be cared for by the Father, the husbandman.
The disciples of Christ are the Lord's branches. Verses 5,6 I am the vine; ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. Branches cannot bear fruit apart from the vine. Neither does the vine bear fruit except through the branches. (It is false doctrine of the worst sort to identify the branches as denominations. Nothing akin to denominationalism is hinted here or anywhere else In Scripture. The branches are specifically Identified as people (verse 6), not religious groups and organizations that did not then even exist.)
If a branch did not bear fruit it was severed from the vine, gathered and burned. This in itself is a deathblow to the false religious doctrine that once one is In Christ he cannot fall.
In saying He is the true vine Jesus makes the following points. He is the avenue of access to the Father's care and love. One must abide (keep living In) Him to bear fruit pleasing to the Father. We see the dependence the branches have on the vine and their close association thereto. We see how Christ the vine also depends on the branches, His disciples, to bear fruit In His name.
We close these thoughts by referring to John 4 when Jesus was speaking to the woman of Samaria at Jacob's well. It had become obvious to the woman that Jesus was something extraordinary. She considered Him a prophet. She had looked for the coming of the Messiah and knew that when He came all things would be revealed concerning the Fathers will and His way of saving mankind. If was to her that Jesus said, I that speak unto thee amhe. (Verse 25).
Above all else we must learn that Jesus was and is the long awaited Messiah, the Christ, the Anointed one, the Savior of mankind. He identifies Himself as that. If we cannot trust this statement there is nothing He has taught that is deserving of consideration. But seeing the evidence concerning Him, there is no difficulty in accepting His teaching concerning His identity. He is the Eternal One, the bread of life, the light of the world, the resurrection and life, the door of the sheepfold, the good shepherd, the way, truth and life, the true vine and the Messiah sent from God.